Arterial Network’s annual African Creative Economy Conference (ACEC) is a means to reflect on the state and growth of the African creative economy and its contribution to development in Africa. Attracting several hundred delegates annually, the ACEC offers a unique opportunity to explore the state of the sector within a broader geopolitical and economic context, providing a benchmark occasion for practitioners, policy-makers, donors, academics and other key stakeholders to interact and engage with the critical challenges and innovative solutions that are part of the process of growing the outputs and efficacy of the creative sector in Africa.


  1. To rigorously interrogate the theories and contemporary thought about the creative and cultural industries and their real or potential contribution to human, economic and social development in varied African conditions;
  2. To bring together key stakeholders including policy makers, practitioners, donors, media and civil society to enable dialogue; strengthening partnerships to advance the creative sector and building South-South relations;
  3. To share and assess research done to date on the African creative economy in order to inform advocacy strategies and cultural policy in support of the African creative sector;
  4. To identify areas for further research, interrogation and action - continentally, regionally and nationally;
  5. To generate critical thinking and African-centred theory to be disseminated into international discourse and strengthen African representation in global meetings;
  6. To provide a platform for African thought-leaders; fostering African leadership and positions to ensure growth and capacity within the African creative sector.

The ACEC rotates regions annually with its first edition being held in Nairobi in 2011 followed by Dakar (2012), Cape Town (2013) and Rabat (2014). ACEC’s fifth edition will take place in Central Africa.


As the United Nations 2008 Report on the Creative Economy states:

“The emerging creative economy has become a leading component of economic growth, employment, trade and innovation, and social cohesion in most advanced economies. Unfortunately, however, the large majority of developing countries are not yet able to harness their creative capacity for development. This is a reflection of weaknesses both in domestic policy and in the business environment, and global systemic biases. Nevertheless, the creative economy offers to developing countries a feasible option and new opportunities to leapfrog into emerging high-growth areas of the world economy.

Empirical evidence shows that the creative industries are among the most dynamic emerging sectors in world trade. It also shows that the interface among creativity, culture, economics and technology, as expressed in the ability to create and circulate intellectual capital, has the potential to generate income, jobs and export earnings while at the same time contributing to social inclusion, cultural diversity and human development.” 

It is in this context that the ACEC has the ambition to interrogate the idea of the creative and cultural industries as the silver bullet to help meet Africa’s key and large-scale human and social development needs, and in this regard, to move the “evidence” for a position on this theme substantially forward. The aim is to further map the sub-sectors of the African creative economy in order to understand what exists, where the value chain for each is concentrated, and what possibilities exist to support and expand the varying sectors, as well as the emerging and informal, in order to maximize their impacts.

The ACEC provides a unique opportunity to network across regions, language and other divisions, to share information and experiences from the continent and to educate the African creative sector about the broader global, regional and national contexts in which we work. Finally, it shows the relevance of Arterial Network as a prime vehicle through which Africa’s civil society active in the creative sector can have a voice and a basis for partnership with international multilateral and funding agencies active in this space, as well as with continental, regional, national and local public authorities.